Why NFL Sunday Ticket On YouTube Could Work
When NFL Sunday Ticket first launched as a service on DirecTV it was a monumental move. Like cable and satellite TV that preceded it, the idea of adding the option to see more than the 3 locally available games on Sunday meant that Cowboys fans in New York didn’t have to watch the Jets when the Boys were playing the Redskins for NFC East supremacy. And on top of that, it was an era before Thursday Night Football and Sunday Night Football meaning that there were more matchups during those 1:00 and 4:00 hours.
At the time, the idea that you would need to have a set TV package in order to then also pay for Sunday Ticket did not seem out of the ordinary. Because that’s how all premium services worked. It was no different than HBO and Showtime, aside from its more steep cost. As streaming options started diversifying and services like HBO Now gave users a way to get premium content without also needing to have a 100+ channel package, it began to change people’s expectations. And now we are here with reports that Google is leading the pack for Sunday Ticket.
It is believed that other possible contenders will not push for the package because they already have significant investments with the league, whether that be Disney/ESPN with Monday Night Football and Comcast with Sunday Night Football or Amazon with its new Thursday Night exclusive. While we felt that ESPN+ would be a perfect spot for the package it is possible that Bob Iger is looking to sure up Disney and not wrack up more debt in the two years he will be in charge. So this left an opening for a deep-pocketed Google to come swooping in.
Google may be in an incredibly good position to cash in on this especially if reports that users will have the option to sign up for it through YouTube Prime Time Channels is true. This would mean that users would be able to sign up for the service without also having an established TV service as well. According to reports, Google is looking to sell the product both on its own and packaged with YouTube TV, its own cable-like service with all of the well-known cable offerings and local broadcast affiliates. This means that there could be a big barrier between the consumer and the product knocked down as we head into the 2023 season. In the 2020s expecting someone to pay over 100.00 a month for a TV service and then ask for 300.00 on top of that was a losing proposition and it showed. Despite the undeniable popularity of NFL football both culturally and as evidenced in TV ratings a service that opened the NFL universe to fans only had 1.6 millions subscribers. That isn’t CNN+ low, but it would be looking up at every single major streaming service in the industry. And for their trouble customers had to have a service that required installing a dish on their home, and the fun of dealing with weather-related performance issues as well. All of those barriers to entry greatly limited who could or would want to get Sunday Ticket. And that does not even include people who live in homes that are part of HOAs.
Now think about all of the layers of objections the current offering has and compare it to how many people have YouTube apps on their phones, TVs streaming players, and video game consoles. YouTube is already the most popular app for streaming in the country. And if all people will have to do to watch all that football is have a YouTube app and the money for the service on its own, I would expect it to rack up subscriber number at least 5 times higher than what it sees now. 10 million subscribers in 2023 does not seem at all unrealistic. The question is will YouTube TV users get any kind of a break on what the service costs for also paying for its TV service? It does not seem unreasonable to imagine some kind of break if Google can guarantee a certain minimum payout regardless. But those negotiations are above my pay grade. But imagine a scenario where YouTube TV customers could get the package for 200.00 instead of 300.00. There would be some people dropping their current TV package in a heartbeat, including those who have stuck with traditional cable services all this time. It was not going to fly for Apple to just add Sunday Ticket to its Apple TV+ service. But if the NFL’s affiliate partners are going to be getting new fees from every new YTTV subscriber through retrans fees it might take the pain away a bit on their end.
Google is one of the only companies out there that is equipped to handle the scale of streaming that will need to be in place when this service really starts rolling and it has the reach and budget to market it to every single man woman and child in the US. Deep down it probably knows that it will have an international audience using VPNs as well. If this is in fact the way it pans out Google will show DTV what is has been doing wrong all this time.